I had it all planned out.
I went to work for my dream non-profit in October of 2009. I had just finished up over 2 years at a financial services company, and hated just about every minute of it. I quickly learned that finance isn’t for me. Seriously. You’re glad I’m not your broker.
After three different interviews, I started work and quickly fell in love with the organization. We were going into disaster-afflicted areas of the world, sending doctors, nurses, dentists, and whoever else was qualified to go. We were tangibly changing lives. It was incredible. I came home every night feeling like I mattered, like I was doing my part to change the world. The pay wasn’t great, and my wife was working full-time, but I knew that a career was just down the road. They knew that’s what I wanted, and they were on board with it. I was willing to work my way through the ranks if it meant I could spend the foreseeable future there. I was committed to them, and they were committed to me. Everything was perfect.
Until it wasn’t.
June 25th, 2012. My boss and I were about to have my year-end performance review. It had been a good year. I had taken on some extra responsibility, and I was ready to keep marching headlong into my career there. My 2nd daughter had been born a month prior, and I was as committed as ever.
Instead, what I heard was something entirely different.
“We can’t afford to keep your position as a full-time one. It’s just not in the budget. I’m really sorry. We would love for you to stay on part-time. Go ahead and take the rest of the day off.”
Just like that. It was over.
I stayed on at 20 hours a week, and got a part-time job at Starbucks for 20 hours a week, in addition to the 15 hours a week I was working at our church. I was working nearly 60 hours a week at three part time jobs for nearly 6 months. I rarely saw my kids or my wife.
It was unhealthy to my family and to myself to say the least.
I was suddenly working 3 dead-end jobs for nearly no money. How did I get here? How did I become a 30-year-old with no full-time job, and no career prospects?
I knew I was going to have to start over. I knew it was probably going to mean a few more years of entry-level work in order to get where I wanted. I’ve been where I am for just over 18 months now, and am finally ready to make the next step, ready to have a career, not just a job.
I didn’t know who I was. I felt like a complete and absolute failure. I couldn’t even hold onto a full-time job, couldn’t provide what my family needed without stretching myself as thin as humanly possible.
It changed me physically. I began to eat to feel better about my situation. I would eat whatever was in front of me. It didn’t matter if I was hungry. I would stop on the way home from work, swing through the drive thru, down a couple cheeseburgers, then go home and eat dinner. I ate my stress away and gained somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 pounds in 6 months. I was the heaviest I’ve ever been.
It changed me spiritually. I stopped believing that Jesus cared for me. I stopped believing the He would come through. To be completely honest, I stopped believing that He loved me. I went through the motions. I worked at my church. I said all the right things, but the truth is, I was completely numb inside. Absolutely dead.
It changed my marriage. I was always tired. I was constantly working on something for one of my jobs, and as such, had no time for Rachel. I was short with her, mean to her, and distant. I was physically there, but for those six months, I was mentally somewhere else entirely. I was trapped in a cycle of self-loathing, pity, and depression.
It changed my relationship with my daughters. I was always working. I worked all day, 6 days a week. Saturday was my day off, and I usually spent it exhausted from the week, stressing about the coming week, distant, aloof, and buried in my phone. I will never get that time with my girls back, and I have to live with that.
By the grace of God, I’m not that man anymore. I still go through bouts of doubt and depression. I’m still short with Rachel on occasion, distant from my girls more often than I’d like, and I’m learning to get a handle of my relationship with food.
So what changed?
I realized that I wasn’t a complete failure.
I’ve been in the church for 31 years, and I’ve heard more teachings than I can count that bash men over the head with inflated notions of masculinity, but I can count on one hand the times I’ve heard a church address the issue of career and job loss.
I look at guys my same age who are head designers at Nike, or Adidas, or civil engineers, or own their own businesses, and think to myself, “Why doesn’t God love me like that? What have I done that I don’t deserve those blessings too? Am I not good enough? Do I not pray enough? Do I not read my bible enough? What’s wrong with me?”
Hear what I’m saying: If you’re not as far along in your journey as those around you, it’s really easy to compare. It’s easy to look at the house, the good job, the stuff, the stability, and the blessings that others have and buy into the lie that God must love them more than you. That God must be more pleased with them than you. I say that because I still fight that. Daily.
But the truth is that you are not your career. You are not the amount of money in your checking account, or the neighborhood you live in, or the ability to grocery shop at Whole Foods instead of the outlet places. You are doing the best you can with the situation you’re in, and nobody is more proud of you than I am. I know what that takes, and I know the feelings you’re fighting.
If you’re doing the best you can with the hand life has dealt you, keep at it. If you’re working hard, providing for and loving your family, and trying your best to be Jesus to them, you’re making Jesus so incredibly proud.
Keep fighting. Keep working. Keep giving it your all.
You’re going to be okay.